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Time management a key skill for farmers

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.


If it weren’t for the last minute, a lot of things wouldn’t get done.


The bad news is, time flies. The good news is,

you’re the pilot.


He was having one of those days. The belt broke on the auger. A tire on the grain truck blew just as he was ready to haul out grain before the oncoming flood. Meanwhile, deadlines for crop insurance are looming.

“If not one thing, another,” the farmer fumed at lunch. His wife raised an eyebrow.

And who’d missed buying a replacement belt? she muttered under her breath. Who had not bothered checking the tires? As for paperwork, if he didn’t hate it so much, it would be done by now.

Putting off an easy thing makes it hard; putting off a hard thing can make it imposs ible, Amer ican clergyman and author George Claude Lorimer once said.

Any farmer facing a bottleneck of tasks and a merciless clock or calendar knows that better than most.

Time deficits aren’t unique to farmers. Everyone who works a job or runs a business experience knows the scarcity of time. But time crunches can be especially aggravating when workplace and home are co-joined, as the farm is, says Danielle Cabernel, a Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives’ rural leadership specialist with the Pembina GO team.


That’s why MAFRI put together a workshop on time management for farmers.

The three-hour course, which earns credits towards a rebate on an MASC loan through the Bridging Generations program, was put together by MAFRI staff. It’s offered occasionally by GO team staff around the province.

It’s professional development training for farmers, explains Cabernel, who recently ran the course at Somerset with a half-dozen participating farmers.

“Better time management can increase a person’s effectiveness and hopefully, in the end, decrease stress,” she said.

Too much time spent “having one of those days,” is what creates that stress, says Cabernel. Some emergencies you won’t have any control over, but chances are your day’s going the way it is because time hasn’t been managed effectively ahead of it.

“If you’re there a lot, you need to ask yourself why,” says Cabernel, who teaches the model used by Stephen Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in the MAFRI course.

Covey’s work divides time into four blocks or quadrants.

Those who procrastinate will be the ones who wind up spending too much time where everything important also becomes urgent.

Why procrastinators procrastinate has been studied extensively by psychologists, who say it’s really a pattern of behaviour that’s a chosen path for failure, and a learned response in families where authoritarian parents don’t allow kids to learn to self-regulate.

Those who tend to say “yes” a lot, are those who’ll find themselves in the midst of a lot of seemingly urgent but not necessarily important matters, said Cabernel. The “yes man” often tries to solve other people’s problems as well as their own.

“We may be doing things that are important to others but not important to us,” said Cabernel. “A good example of this is volunteer time. Everyone needs to do this, especially in small communities. But you sometimes will have people who don’t say ‘no.’ They’re always saying ‘yes.’ They try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one in the process.”

Slackers in Covey’s model spend so much time on things neither important nor urgent, time is wasted. Then they end up facing the procrastinator’s crisis.

Where you want to be is in a place where things are important, but not urgent. That’s where you’re able to set goals and most importantly, set out a plan for your work, and be proactive about getting things done, says Cabernel.

Getting there is a matter of assessing the value of one’s time and understanding how effectively it’s being used, she adds.


The MAFRI course also cites Eat That Frog – 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by author Brian Tracey.

“Eat that frog” is advice for anyone resisting doing something they know must be done, says Cabernel. It means do the worst thing first, or as Tracey more cleverly puts it, “If you have to eat a live frog, it doesn’t pay to look at it very long.”

For more information on the MAFRI course contact your nearest GO office. [email protected]

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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